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Archive for the ‘Bill Clinton’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-Oddments (2014).

After the psychedelia of the previous album, KGATLW released this varied collection of songs.  Indeed, none of the 12 songs sound anything like the others.  It’s hard to say if this is a collection of leftover songs or an attempt to make a varied record.  After all, they had released four and a half albums in three years.

Nothing is really more than 3 minutes except “Work This Time.”  Everything goes by so quickly it’s hard to know what to think.

“Alluda Majaka” opens this record with an instrumental that has every style of music thrown into it–funky bass, organ, Indian music, there’s also sound effects and clips from a movie or two and really loud drums.  It’s a crazy opening for a crazy album.

“Stressin'” slows things down with a falsetto vocal and a gentle groove including a warbly wild guitar solo.  It’s followed by “Vegemite,” a nonsensical ode to vegemite with a great beat and an easy to sing along chorus (sung by Ambrose, I believe): Veg-e-mite…I like.

“It’s Got Old” is slower simple rocker (complete with flute and handclaps) and somehow is followed by the trippy, synthy swirls of “Work This Time.”  It opens with a rumbling wild drum intro and then becomes really gentle with more soft falsetto vocals.

“ABCABcd” is 17 seconds of garage rock nonsense before the sweet rocking acoustic guitars of “Sleepwalker.”

“Hot Wax” sounds like an old(er) KG garage rock song.  There’s creepy vocals from Stu and a simple riff and a chorus that literally repeats chorus from “Surfin Safari” but with their own muffled, fuzzy garage rock chords.  “Crying” has an old soul sound with its simple three note melody.  It even has spoken word parts (the way you act, girl) and everything.

The end of the disc throws in even more craziness in the last five or so minutes.  “Pipe Dream” is a one minute instrumental that doesn’t really do anything except evoke a psychedelic moment.  It fades out just as a riff begins.  But it’s not the riff to “Homeless Man in Addidas” which is a quiet acoustic folk song that sounds an awful lot like “April She Will Come” by Simon & Garfunkel.  The disc ends with “Oddments,” a 25 second piece of silliness that’s like a commercial for the disc which even chants out the disc name.

Unlike their more cohesive albums, this is not a necessity exactly, but it is a fun opportunity to see just how much KGATLW can do in 30 minutes.

[READ: November 2018] Cluetopia

This is a brief history of the crossword puzzle as broken down by year.

David Astle (whose name must be a crossword answer) is a crossword maniac.  What makes this book especially interesting to me is that he is from Australia, which means he has a very different perspective on the crossword puzzle than someone like Will Shortz.  For there is a great American/British (and Australian) divide when it comes to crosswords.

Astle is a huge fan of British-style cryptic puzzles and he really delves into some of the best ones over the last century.

A neat summary of the different types of puzzles comes from Always Puzzling: (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: KING GIZZARD AND THE LIZARD WIZARD-12 Bar Bruise (2012).

12 Bar Bruise is the first full-length album from KGATLW.  It sounds even rawer than their EP.  But there’s no drop in intensity.  It’s an intense mix of punk, psychedelic blues, surf rock and boogie all filtered through a buzzing, fuzzy sound.  Distortion rules this album, but never enough to obscure what are remarkably simple but catchy riffs.  Most songs are just around 3 minutes long.

Once again, lyrics take a lesser place than great music. So “Elbow” has some bad words in it, but you can’t tell.  It’s more about whoops and tricked out guitar solos and chants of “ey ey ey.”  “Muckraker” introduces the surf punk elements and “Nein” has my favorite lyric thus far: “1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8, Nein, Nein, Nein, Nein, Nein”

“12 Bar Bruise” is the longest song on the disc at 3:47.  It is indeed a simple blues with muffled vocals.  “Garage Liddiard” introduces the concept of surf rock in a garage.  The guitar slides like a surf rock song but the whole vibe is garage with “ooh ooh” backing vocals and a harmonica solo that sounds like someone singing at the same time.

“Sam Cherry’s Last Shot” is the one very different song on this record.   It is played like a Western and it features spoken word.   Broderick Smith [of The Dingoes] is harmonica player Ambrose Kenny-Smith’s father.  He is an absolute Western nut so he narrated page 521 and 522 of the book “Our Wild Indians: Thirty-Three Years’ Personal Experience among the Red Men of the Great West” by Colonel Richard Irving Dodge, Aid-de-Camp to General Sherman.  This is certainly the set up for their next album, Eyes Like the Sky which is a full album of Western music with narration from Smith.

“High Hopes” is almost as long as “12 Bar,” but it has an intro of electronic drums and video game sounds before it switches back to the standard rocking sound.  There’s a lengthy, wickedly distorted harmonica solo.  “Cut Throat Boogie” features a different vocalist (I think Ambrose Kenny-Smith).  It’s a garage rock boogie.

Despite the title, “Bloody Ripper” is a slower, quieter less frenetic and really catchy song.  “Uh oh, I Called Mum” wins for best song title.  It opens with everyone chanting “mum” and lots of backing vocals.  The lyrics: “I bought a funny glob / I put it in my gob.”  “Sea of Trees” is the least distorted track.  It’s a catchy swinging song with a cool harmonica solo.

The disc ends with “Footy Footy,” a two-minute stomper dedicated to playing footy.  The chorus:
Footy footy, all I wanna do is
Footy footy, all I wanna kick is
Footy footy, they catch the ball, kick, play on!
Footy footy, footy footy footy!

But the verses are presumable great players:

Ang Christou / Che Cockatoo-Collins / Phillip Matera / Gavin Wanganeen / Gary Moorcroft / Aussie Jones / Bruce Doull, the ‘Flying Doormat’ / ‘Spida’ Everitt / ‘Spider’ Burton / Craig Bradley / The 1995 Carlton football team

and

‘Diesel’ Williams / Dale Kickett / ‘Sticks’ Kernahan / Darren Jarman / Chad Rintoul / Ashley Sampi / Mick Martyn / Dean [?] / Clint Bizzell / The Brisbane Bears / Aaron Hamill / Everyone

with the final line: “I hate what this game has become.”

It’s a lot of fun crammed into 35 minutes.

[READ: February 1, 2019] Checkpoint

This book was a pretty controversial work back in 2004.

Released before the re-election of George W. Bush, this book is, very simply, a dialogue between two men.

The topic?  Jay wants to assassinate President Bush.  Ben, his oldest friend, wants to talk him out of it.

There was a lot of discussion about the merits of this book–regardless of the politics–and I didn’t want to read it because of all of that.

In the real world, it’s fifteen years later and we are suffering through a trump–far worse than Bush could have even imagined being–although clearly Bush marched the Republican party off the cliff that had trump at the bottom of it.

So, how does one come down on this spicy subject fifteen years later? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: ENDON-Through the Mirror (2017).

Endon’s Through the Mirror is one of the most punishing musical experiences I’ve ever had.  They opened for Boris a few months ago and their live show was incredibly intense.  It’s no surprise that their album is, too.

When I was looking at their merch, this guy came up behind me and said, that their debut album, MAMA made him want to kill himself.  But this album was different, more enjoyable.  I thanked him for saving my life.

Endon hail from Japan and call their music “catastrophic noise-metal.”

The first song is the five and a half-minute “Nerve Rain.”  It is, simply put, a wave of noise.  The guitarist plays a loud distorted guitar–very quickly.  Non-stop for 2 and a half minutes.  It is accompanied by fast pounding drums.  In the background there are all kinds of warbling electronic noises.  After two and a half minutes the noise ends abruptly.  It starts again exactly the same after a few seconds.  This continues for the rest of the song, stopping and starting at more frequent intervals.  It is relentless.  Somebody please put the entire Republican party into a room and play this at them for 24 hours.

The second song, “Your Ghost is Dead” introduces a singer, Taichi Nagura.  The drums are twice as fast, the guitar is also incredibly fast and when the singer comes in, he uses a complicated mix of cookie monster vocals, screams, wails and desperate lashing out.  I have no idea if there are any words to these songs or if he’s just making noise.  Sometimes he’s buried under the rest of the noise.  Interestingly there’s even a cool somewhat mellow guitar riff in the middle of this song–if you removed it from the noise surrounding it, it would be very catchy.  About half way through the song, the noise stops, the riff comes through clean and then Taichi Nagura can be heard crying.   And then it all takes off again.

“Born in Limbo” slows things down with an interesting drum beat.  But the bulk of the song is manipulated sounds and effects–primarily screams, from both tapes and the lead singer.  In fact Taichi Nagura’s screams are rhythmic and strangely catchy.  There’s a Mike Patton component to this song for sure.  The middle of the song even has a somewhat traditional (wailing) guitar solo.

“Pensum” is only 90 seconds long and it is 90 seconds of pummeling noise.  It’s followed by “Postsex” which is more of the same with extra focus placed on Taichi Nagura ‘s vocals which are varied and run through a gamut of pain.

“Perversion Til Death” is 10 minutes long.  It opens with some crazy fast drumming and a slow melodic guitar melody that’s more or less buried under a wall of noise.  This song is a lot slower and more ponderous than the others, with some heavy drums, squalling guitars and screamed vocals just done at a different pace.  Until the final two minutes which are just heavy pounding.

“Through the Mirror” has some interesting guitar ideas buried under a wall of squealing feedback.  Just before the song turns into a breakneck hardcore pace there’s a ten second respite with an interesting riff and nothing else.  And then pummel.  Around three minutes the noise drops away and you get super fast drums with some electronic sounds and Taichi Nagura all-out screaming but in that strangely melodic way again.  It lasts for about 30 seconds before ethe breakneck noise (and growling takes over).  The song slows down with him weeping as pleasant guitars take over.  While these pleasant chords continue playing through, he starts screaming at the top of his lungs in mortal pain.

“Torch Your House” ends this disc with a 9 minute epic.  The song begins quietly, with some pretty guitars and gentle washes of sounds.  They explore chords for about 2 and a half minutes before the drums and noise take over,  but the guitar solo is able to pierce through the wall of noise.  Taichi Nagura screams throughout in bursts, but the guitars stay largely guitar-sounding not noise-making.  Around five-minute the whole things turns into a rocking metal song.  For the last minute or so, it all mellows out with an acoustic guitar playing the melody.  Until the last 30 seconds when the noise returns over and a five-beat drum pattern as the song crashes to an end.

Musical endurance.

[READ: September 23, 2017] “Who’s Laughing Now?”

I have enjoyed most of Tom Bissell’s writing in Harper’s  He writes about a wide array of things, including entertainment.  A while back I read a lot of his older articles and it was enjoyable to read things hat were not current anymore.  And that may be why I didn’t enjoy this article as much.  It is too current.  Too painful.  I can’t believe he hasn’t been impeached yet.

Bissell suggests that trump and SNL were made for each other.  He was the rare novelty guest to have hosted twice.  Once in 2004 to promote The Apprentice and again in late 2015 to soften perception of a presidential campaign widely seen as alarming.  Some would accuse SNL of normalizing him after this (although his being a celebrity of three decades certainly had something to do with it).

Both Times he was on ratings were great so… who used whom? (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: WILD FLAG-Live at the Black Cat, October 20, 2011 (2011).

It’s interesting to compare this show by Wild Flag with their SXSW show.  This set is longer, but they retain the same raw energy and intensity.  It also sounds as though the tour has been rough on Carrie’s voice, which sounds a bit strained and hoarse (even when she talks!).

They play most of their debut album, but they also throw in a couple of new songs and even a few covers.  Perhaps the most fascinating part is the 15 minute (!) version of “Racehorse.”  There’s a lengthy noodling section as well as a cool part where Carrie goes a little crazy asking about money.

Janet Weiss is absolutely amazing here too.  And the keyboards, definitely complement everything well, but they are always the most notable flubs, and there’s the same one as in the SXSW show (not as bad, but noticeable).

Without a doubt the most interesting thing is the hearing that Mary Timony gives guitar lessons in Washington DC.  She lives there and evidently earns extra cash by doing guitar lessons.  Wow.  How cool would that be?

Check out the show here.

[READ: January 15, 2012] The Influencing Machine

Brooke Gladstone is one of two reporters who works on NPR’s On the MediaOn the Media is an awesome show which dissects things that happen in the world and examines the way the media portrays the events.  They work pretty hard to see who is reporting bias, who is exposing bias and how things are getting out to the average media consumer.  It’s worth anyone’s time to read (it doesn’t take very long).  And it’s also fun and enjoyable.  As anyone who has heard the ending of On the Media: “and edited [dramatic pause] by Brooke” knows, there’s always a smirking grin attached to the program.

When I heard that this book came out I was pretty excited to read it.  And then I promptly forgot all about it.  Lucky for me, my wife can take a hint, and she got it for me for Christmas.

The first surprise of the book is that it is written as a graphic novel–illustrations by Josh Neufeld (who has drawn for Harvey Pekar’s American Splendor).  The funny thing about the illustrations is that I have no idea what Brooke Gladstone looks like (which I rather prefer about my NPR announcers), but I really like the cartoony style of her avatar (which reminds me of Elaine from Seinfeld and which inspired me to draw a kind of similar version on my drawing site.

On to the book.

This book works as a primer for understanding media ownership, media consolidation and media power.  The opening few chapters are going to be nothing new for anyone who has read Chomsky or Vidal on the media.  But since most people haven’t, it’s a wonderful way into some of these thorny issues of who tells us what and why. (more…)

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adidasSOUNDTRACK: TV ON THE RADIO-Dear Science, (2008).

sciencThe problem with TV on the Radio for me is that their first EP is so damned good that anything else they do pales in comparison.  Having said that, Dear Science, comes really close to topping that EP.  I liked Cookie Mountain (their previous disc) but I felt like they put so many elements into the mix that it detracted from the best part of the band: Tunde Adepimbe & Kyp Malone’s vocals.

And so, on Dear Science, the vocals are back up front where they belong.  This disc is a lot less busy, which may seem a little like selling out, but instead, it just heightens the complexity and originality of the band’s work.  The disc rocks hard but it also heightens some really cool jazz and dance elements.    But it all comes back to the melodies and vocals for me.  And on Dear Science, they pretty much outdo themselves.

And you can dance to it!

[READ: September 30, 2009] Shiny Adidas Tracksuits and the Death of Camp and Other Essays

After reading David Foster Wallace’s essay in this book, I looked at the other articles here and decided to read the whole thing.  And I’m really glad I did.  It’s an interesting book full of, funny and often thought-provoking pop culture articles circa 1996.  As with some of the other pop culture/political books that I’ve read several years after they were relevant, it’s often weird to look back and see what things fully occupied the popular landscape at the time.  And, when a piece is completed dated, it’s pretty obvious, and sometimes unintentionally funny.  But there are many pieces here that are timeless (or at least hold up for a decade), and those are still really good reads.

This book also does a good job of summarizing the tenor of the defunct Might magazine.  A dose of irony, a splash of humor and a lot of criticism of what’s trendy.

The strange thing to me about this book, though is the targets that they chose to go after sometimes.  Rather than critiquing right-wing attitudes or corporate shenanigans (which they do touch on), they really seem to be after pop and rock celebrity.  For instance, there are two separate articles which take a potshot at Eddie Vedder (this was around the time of the Ticketmaster fiasco which didn’t put him in the best light but which could hardly be seen as only self-serving).  This seems rather unfair, unless his sincerity could really be called into question by a bunch of ironic jokesters.  Magazines like Radar and Spy used to do snarky articles like this. I’d always thought that Might was a little better than that.  But indeed, there’s one or two pieces here that have a holier- (or perhaps indier)-than-thou attitude.   Which may have been fine in the 90s but which seem petulant now.

But aside from those, the irony-free pieces are very enjoyable.  (more…)

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weekI’m not sure how I first learned about The Week. I think I received a trial issue in the mail. But after just one or two issues we were hooked.  The Week is a comprehensive newsweekly, although it offers virtually no original reporting.  It collates news stories and offers opinions from a variety of sources: newspapers, online magazines, political journals etc. And it provides opinions from across the political spectrum.

Each issue has the same set up (although they recently had an image makeover: a new cover design and some unexpected font changes in a few sections, which I suppose does lend to an easier read).

Each issue starts with The main stories… …and how they were covered. The first article is a look at whatever major story captivated the editorials that week.  (The growing gloom in Afghanistan).  And in a general sense of what you get for long articles (the long articles are about 3/4 of a page) You get WHAT HAPPENED, WHAT THE EDITORIALS SAID, and WHAT THE COLUMNISTS SAID.  The What Happened section is a paragraph or two summary of the story.  The editorials offer a one or two sentence summary from sources like USA Today, L.A. Times and The Financial Times, while The Columnists are from The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and Time.com, for example. (more…)

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mojoBack oh, fifteen years ago, I subscribed to Mother Jones.  I also subscribed to an unvaried assortment of political mags: The Nation, The Progressive, and In These Times.  But as I grew less politically motivated, I slacked off on the subscriptions.  I just didn’t have time to read all of that.

Recently, I added Mother Jones to my Google Home page.  I started seeing some good headlines, so I thought I’d look into resubscribing.  And for $10, I got a year.

At first I was a bit disappointed in it.  The first issue I received had the cover story: Who Ran Away With Your 401K?  And frankly, it’s gone, I don’t really need to see the trail of footprints leading to a culprit that will never be punished.  And that is the general focus of MoJo: Follow stories that no one is covering; muckrake, if you will.  And they’re very good at it.  And yet, most of the time I feel like nothing really comes of it.  Knowing that someone is at fault doesn’t make them pay for it (most of the time).

The other problem I had was with what we can call liberal guilt.  I’ve got better things to worry about, frankly.  So, when I get an article like this in the current issue: What’s Your Water Footprint? And the subtitle is If you thought calculating your carbon impact made you feel guilty, just wait….  Well, I’m not going to read that.

So the magazine starts like most magazines: the Out Front section is full of short articles that are usually depressing.

I do enjoy Conspiracy Watch, a small box that delves into a current conspiracy (by any side of the political spectrum) and sees if there’s any merit to it (with a rating in tinfoil hats).

There’s usually a look at someone in the administration and then some heavy-hitting articles.  This particular issue is all about the Drug War.  So there’s an article about drug violence in Mexico.  But then a more light-hearted, I suppose, article about drugs in the U.S., including a timeline for drug issues, was more interesting.  This particular one was a first-person account of the war on drugs.

The muckraking article was about the car dealers who steal from military families. (more…)

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